The U.S. Navy Blue Angels are currently busy training at their winter home in El Centro, California, getting ready for their upcoming 2018 air shown season. And while spectators and photographers are a common sight around the base during this time of year, those in attendance Feb 24 were treated to an incredibly close experience which literally knocked the hats off some of them.
Below, watch Navy Lt. Brandon Hempler, Blue Angel 6, take his iconic blue and gold F/A-18 Hornet into an extremely close low-transition takeoff directly over a crowd of folks gathered just outside the base perimeter.
One person was even blown off their viewing ladder, breaking their camera, while others got mouthfuls of dirt kicked up by the jet’s raw power as Lt. Hempler accelerated into a steep climb with his afterburners blazing.
Below, check out another great angle on the low-transition close encounter from Spencer Hughes.
The elite world-famous team arrived in Imperial Valley at Naval Air Facility, El Centro on Jan 3, kicking off an intense ten week training session with the pilots flying two practice missions per day, six days a week, in order to meet the 120 training missions required to perform their upcoming public air show demonstrations safely.
The team will then fly back to Pensacola, Florida on March 19, before heading to NAS Kingsville, Texas for the “Wings Over South Texas” air show March 24-25.
The team is slated to fly 59 demonstrations at 31 locations this year, ending the year back at home in Pensacola, Florida on Nov 3 for their annual “Homecoming Air Show“. They’ve showcased the pride and professionalism of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps for nearly 500 millions people since 1946, and aim to inspire a culture of excellence and service to country through their performances and various community outreach efforts throughout the year.
Blue Angels Flight Surgeon, LCDR Juan Guerra, produces some fantastic aerial photography when he takes to the skies with them for their practices, and shares them on his Instagram account. Check out some of his views from their practicing at El Centro this year below:
CDR Eric Doyle, Flight Leader for the Blue Angels, flies inverted over runway 30 at NAF El Centro during a practice of the Double Farvel. Photo taken while inverted from the Slot Position, flown by LCDR Nate Scott. . . . #blueangels #f18 #airshow #aviation #avgeek #instagramaviation #military #aviationphotography #canonphotography #canon #5dmarkiv @navyblueangel4 @lvjackpilot @combat_learjet #navylife #instagood #photooftheday #upsidedown #california @airspacemag
At the top of the Line Abreast Loop, CDR Eric Doyle, Flight Leader of the Blue Angels, appears inverted. Despite being inverted, the constant pull of the loop maintains positive Gz throughout – meaning you could hold a glass of water without spilling it. The Laguna Mountains, which separate the Colorado Desert from San Diego, are seen in the background. Photo taken from the Right Wing, flown by LT Damon Kroes. . . . #blueangels #instagramaviation #airshow #avgeek @navyblueangel2 @navyblueangel4 #navy #navylife #aviation #f18 #military #california #bluesky #canon #canonphotography #5dmarkiv #photooftheday @natgeo #instagood @airspacemag #aviationphotography @combat_learjet @lvjackpilot
During training at El Centro, the four Diamond and two Solo pilots each fly a morning and afternoon training flight. In addition, “three days per week, a fifth, additional, training flight is conducted to integrate the Diamond and Solos to perfect the timing of the demonstration,” says Guerra.
The flights are conducted over a Naval Bombing Range known as ShadeTree Range.
Check out the team’s 2018 schedule HERE to see if they will be performing at an air show near you this year.
– Special thanks to Tim Guzman for his photos in this story.